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"A Taste Of African Heritage" Cooking And Wellness Program Debuts Nationwide
7/31/2013 2:05:00 PM


BOSTON, MA -- Oldways is cooking up something totally new: cooking classes designed for African-American communities that showcase the rich and healthy roots of African culture and traditional cuisine.

The traditional diet experts at Oldways, the Boston-based nonprofit, have launched a national cooking and wellness program, "A Taste of African Heritage" to help communities and individuals reconnect with the vibrant ways of eating and living that supported the health and wellbeing of African-American ancestors.

This nutritional, cultural cooking program, which follows a successful pilot in 15 locations last year, debuts in 50 locations throughout the country in 2013, with 100 class sites planned for 2014.

"Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are not a part of African-American heritage, said Sara Baer-Sinnott president, Oldways. "Our 'A Taste of African Heritage' cooking program addresses these issues and is a springboard to the wonderful old ways of eating and living, creating new healthy traditions by introducing participants to the cultural and culinary roots of their ancestors."

Made possible through a grant by the Walmart Foundation, the centerpiece of the "A Taste of African Heritage" program is the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, introduced by Oldways in November 2011. This healthy eating model celebrates the traditional eating patterns of early African-American ancestors—from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South.

The "A Taste of African Heritage" program is designed as a cooking and wellness series of six classes, offered weekly or bi-weekly at community centers, churches, and healthcare venues. Classes are free and typically last one hour and 45 minutes. Instructors, who are health professionals and educators, teach from an innovative curriculum created by Oldways.

"The cultural recognition brought by the Oldways curriculum is what makes these classes so successful and resonate with its participants," said pilot coordinator, Stephanye Clarke, from New London, CT. "I can't tell a group of African Americans, susceptible to lactose intolerance, that they should be drinking three glasses of milk per day. They never have historically, and there are so many other nutritionally-rich foods of African heritage that should be promoted."

Participants start by taking a Healthy Heritage Pledge, committing to eat more like the old ways every day, using the African Heritage Diet Pyramid as a guide. The classes are designed to bring the pyramid to life, allowing participants to "meet" the major foods of the pyramid (i.e., African spices donated by Savory Spice Shop, greens, whole grains, beans/rice, tubers/stews and fruits/vegetables) and to learn how to easily prepare them, instilling cooking confidence, basic skills, and enjoyment as motivators for preparing regular home-cooked meals, part of a healthy lifestyle. It's also an introduction to the vibrant history, culture and nutrition of African heritage foods, and an experiential guide to easily adapting African heritage patterns to modern day life.

To determine the effectiveness of the program in improving physical health instructors will measure student weight, blood pressure, and waist circumference at the first and last sessions. Additionally, to track lifestyle and dietary changes, students will fill out entrance/exit surveys in class, and will be encouraged to take online surveys at week 12 and week 24 after they have graduated.

In addition to A Taste of African Heritage cooking and wellness classes, Oldways has introduced a webinar, "The African Heritage Diet Pyramid: An Innovative Tool for Combatting Diabetes, Obesity, and Other Diet-Related Chronic Diseases," for health professionals that is available on the website.

For more than twenty years, Oldways has been dedicated to promoting the powerful health benefits, affordability, and delicious flavors found in traditional plant-based diets worldwide. To get more information on participating as an instructor or student in A Taste of African Heritage Cooking Classes, please contact Sarah McMackin, Oldways program manager, 512-330-0111, [email protected]

Source via PR Newswire

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